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MDPI, Biology, 9(10), p. 851, 2021

DOI: 10.3390/biology10090851



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Ethnobotany of the Himalayas: Safeguarding Medical Practices and Traditional Uses of Kashmir Regions

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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The present study was carried out to enlist the medicinal plants used by the local inhabitants of developing countries such as India, and the district of Kupwara of the Kashmir Himalaya has been targeted. Our research is one of the first study focusing on the statistical evaluation of the cross-cultural analysis between three different communities i.e., Dard, Kashmiri and Gujjar, of the study area. Sampling was carried out in eight villages in 2017 to 2020, and data were collected from 102 informants based on walking transects, to collect plant specimens, and semi-structured interviews. The medical usages of all collected taxa were grouped into 15 disease categories and 81 biomedical ailments. In this study, we documented around 107 plant taxa belonging to 52 families from the local inhabitants of the Kashmir Himalaya, which regulate the livelihood of the people and support cultural ecosystem services. Asteraceae, Rosaceae, Lamiaceae, Malvaceae, Ranunculaceae, Poaceae, Solanaceae, Polygonaceae, Plantaginaceae and Brassicaceae are the top most dominant families. Herbaceous groups of plants were more common than trees and shrubs, and 71.96% of herb taxa were employed as medicine. Liliaceae, Caprifoliaceae and Portulacaceae (FUV = 0.24 each) have the highest family use value (FUV). The most prominent family was Asteraceae (seven genera, nine taxa), followed by Rosaceae and Lamiaceae (six genera, six taxa each). Persicaria Mill., Rheum L., Aconitum L. and Artemisia L. were prominent genera. Valeriana jatamansi Jones ex Roxb. (47UR), Fritillaria cirrhosa D. Don (45UR), Arisaema jacquemontii Blume (37UR), Asparagus racemosus Willd. (36UR) and Rumex acetosa L. (35UR) were the most important plant taxa with reference to use-reports. The ethnomedicinal applications of Aesculus indica Wall. ex Cambess., Solanum pseudocapsicum L., Ranunculus hirtellus Royle and Cormus domestica (L.) Spach plant taxa are reported here for the first time from the Himalayan Kashmiri people. We recommend further research on ethnopharmacological application of these newly recorded ethnobotanical plants. The medical usage of the plant was limited to different parts of the plant. In terms of the usage percentage, whole plant (26.17%), leaves (24.30%) and roots (19.63%) were found to have the highest utilization. The powder form (40.19%) was the most frequently employed method of drug/medicine preparation, followed by the utilization of extracted juice and/or other extracts (22.43%). The ICF values range from 0.85 to 1.00. Their use to remedy parasitic problems (PAR) and insect bites (IB) (ICF = 1.0 each) had the maximum consensus mentioned by the informants, although the number of taxa employed under this category was very limited. The different plant taxa used for the treatment of the gastrointestinal problems (GAS) was the most prominent disease category (262 URs, 16.19%, 25 taxa, ICF = 0.90). About 65% of the plant taxa studied is indigenous to the Asia or Himalayan regions, and around 35% is found to be exotic in nature. A strong positive correlation was found between age, gender, educational qualification and medicinal plant knowledge. No significant association was between people of different communities interviewed in terms of medical knowledge of the plants, p = 0.347 (>0.05) and χ2 = 2.120. No significant difference was found between the number of species documented concerning gender as p = 0.347 (>0.05) and χ2 =0.885. This study provides the comprehensive status of ethnomedicinal knowledge among three different communities of the study area. This study provided an impetus in discovering the baseline primary data for molecules which would help in drug discovery and management of various diseases, apart from conserving the genepool of plants in the investigated area.